Motels Go Chic: What Used To Be A Dump Is Now An Instagrammable Moment.

The Kimpton Goodland in the Santa Barbara Area

Hotels get expensive when summertime rolls around in beautiful Santa Barbara, so it was tough for us to find decent hotel rooms that fit into our client’s budget. But someone tracked down the Kimpton Goodland in Goleta, CA, just a bit west from downtown Santa Barbara.

It sure looked fun and quirky from their home page (photo above), but there were mixed messages on arrival. This isn’t a hotel, it’s a dumpy old motel that’s been fixed up. Pull back for the wide shot and you see the gas station and strip mall across the street. No hallways, you enter your room directly from the parking lot.

But the lobby was nice, and the bar was spectacular, opening to beautiful outdoor dining area. There was a “vinyl library” to choose from – classic jazz, folk, rock and other albums from back in the day that you could take and play on the old school record players provided in every room.

The Bar at the Kimpton Goodland

Then you get to your room. Nicely designed, but still just a motel room. No filter for the parking lot and street noise. I’d go there for dinner, but wouldn’t really want to stay there again. And it wasn’t cheap. You pay for all that Instagrammable hipness.

A few weeks ago, we found ourselves in San Francisco during Dreamforce week, Saleforce’s huge annual convention that draws 170,000 people into the city and drives up hotel prices. We tried to book three weeks in advance, but any decent hotel room was well over $750. So we wound up in Millbrae, CA, close to SFO, in a place called The Dylan. Nice name…and nice photos on their website.

Pulling up in our Lyft, we saw the place was just a dump from the outside. Checking in, the trends became apparent. Motels are repositioning themselves as boutique inns. Same lousy room, but the trappings of hipness.

Will this work? No doubt it will. Seasoned travelers like me, craving more creature comforts, might shun these places once they’ve had the experience. But for a younger target, a place to stay that offers prices lower than premium hotels that provide great content possibilities for social media and a quirky, unique experience, could hold great appeal. What’s “lipstick on a pig” for some very well may be an exciting new travel experience for others.

Here’s a brief photo journal of our stay in San Francisco.

Not a Great First Impression.

But What a gorgeous lobby! Fun!


Wait, it gets Better! Check out this beautiful rooftop garden!

Breakfast Looks Great! What a fun room!

Unfortunately, it’s the same crap food – make your own waffle included – served at the Hampton Inn.


And then there’s the room.

Looks good on their website photo here, less so in real life. Fairly well appointed, a big basket of free snacks was nice, but it was dark and rainy that night and the rooms have no central heat or air. Must have been less than 60 degrees in the room when I first got there, but the noisy, stand-alone heating unit eventually warmed it up.

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